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New nationwide campaign to educate voters on pitfalls of ranked-choice voting

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A coalition of state-based think tanks launched a new nationwide campaign Friday to educate voters about the pitfalls of ranked-choice voting, a complex voting system that has been the subject of scrutiny in jurisdictions where it has been enacted. The campaign, called Protect My Ballot, will educate voters in jurisdictions where proposed legislation or ballot initiatives seek to implement the ranked-choice voting election system.

Ranked-choice voting has emerged as an alternative to plurality voting and calls on voters to rank candidates in order of preference on their ballot, rather than cast a single vote for their most preferred candidate. If no candidate achieves a majority of the votes cast in the first round, the candidate with the fewest first round votes is eliminated and their votes are reallocated to other candidates based on voters’ second and subsequent rankings. The process repeats until a candidate obtains a majority of the remaining votes.

However, the system has shown to lead to high levels of ballot exhaustion due to ballot marking mistakes and exhausted choices. It’s also been shown to decrease turnout among minority populations and increase ballot exhaustion among elderly and less-educated voters.

The coalition, led by Alaska Policy Forum, is also comprised of Maine Policy Institute, Freedom Foundation of Minnesota and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. The video bellow offers a brief synopsis of how the ranked-choice voting system works and how it can actually discount voters’ ballots.

The State of Alaska is currently grappling with a ballot initiative being advanced by a Colorado-based political action committee that has spent more than $1 million to place the so-called “Better Elections” initiative on the state’s November general election ballot. On Friday, Former Democrat U.S. Senator from Alaska, Mark Begich, and the state’s former Republican governor, Sean Parnell, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal expressing their opposition to Alaska adopting the ranked-choice system.

Bipartisan opposition to ranked-choice voting is common throughout the country. Current and former Democratic governors from California, Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom, both have publicly opposed ranked-choice voting. Brown said the system “deprives voters of genuinely informed choice,” and Newsom said it has “led to voter confusion and the promise that ranked-choice voting leads to greater democracy is not necessarily fulfilled.”

As noted in the WSJ op-ed, the system has also been opposed by New York’s chapter of the NAACP, and three Democratic members of the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus said RCV hurts immigrants and communities of color. Republican State Sen. Mark Koran of Minnesota recently co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to prohibit the use of ranked-choice voting in his state, saying “Every vote should count, and every vote should be as simple as ‘I picked my top candidate.’”

Voters can learn more about the campaign and ranked-choice voting at ProtectMyBallot.com.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is the director of communications at Maine Policy Institute and the editor of The Maine Wire. He formerly served as a policy analyst at Maine Policy. Posik can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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